Is Stevia the New Sugar?

WIkimediaWIkimediaWhile a crackdown on soda, energy drinks and other sweet beverages is underway, a plant just may be the answer to the war between manufacturers and policy makers.

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Many soft drink companies have begun making low- to mid-calorie soft drinks using the stevia plant. While it's all-natural, the plant is nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar and does not have the cancer concerns associated with sugar substitutes, according to Market Playground.

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And, with soda consumption down 17 percent from 1998 and criticism from health critics blaming obesity statistics on sugary drinks, soda makers have been producing these low-calorie drinks in higher numbers using a combination of stevia plants and high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar.

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Despite this spike in demand for stevia, consumer analyst Melanie Felgate told Beverage Daily that companies will have to find a way to eliminate the displeasing aftertaste associated with stevia to make these products more marketable.

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"If mid-calorie soft drink manufacturers can overcome the bitter aftertaste associated with stevia, there will be opportunities to reduce the amount of sugar even further," she said.

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-Kristin Salaky, The Daily Meal